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Posted by on Dec 24, 2012 in Good Habits Challenges, Motivation | 0 comments

New Year’s Resolutions Are Useless – How to Set Up Normal Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions Are Useless – How to Set Up Normal Resolutions

Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, the presents, New Year’s Eve countdown, the family get-together, the Christmas market, the Glühwein …. December is usually a month of happiness, enthusiasm, and joy. It’s time to sit back and relax, review the achievements of the year (if any) and prepare next year. Good feelings and sincere intentions are at their highest level and New Year’s resolutions pop out off almost everybody’s mouth.

Here is a typical conversation I’m sure you already had or heard:
“ – What are your resolutions for this year?
- Well, this year, I will stop [insert here a bad habit you want to get rid of. Examples: lose weight, quit smoking, quit watching dumb things on TV] and start [insert here a good habit you want to acquire. Examples: spend more time with my loved ones, save more money, be more healthy]
- But … didn’t you have the same resolutions last year?
- Yes, it’s true. But I feel that this year is the right year.”

New Year’s Resolutions have a very high failure rate. British psychologist Richard Wiseman showed via an experiment based on 3000 people that 88% of all resolutions end in failure. By far a failure rate much higher than for normal resolutions.

Normal Resolutions?

What are normal resolutions? Normal resolutions are the ones you take on a Tuesday at 5pm. You take them at any time, for no reasons whatsoever except that you are aware of something you need to change and you understand you should start NOW. No excuses, no BS about “It’s better and easier to start on the 1st of January 2013”. Actually, they are generally called goals or objectives – “resolutions” is a word mainly associated to New Year.

As I said here, I believe that every second gives you the opportunity to make a change in your life. Remember, YOU have the power . Waiting for next Monday or for New Year just doesn’t make sense to me; and to me, that is the main reason why New Year’s resolutions are useless.

4 Reasons To Stop Making New Year’s Resolutions

But maybe to you, this is not enough, so here is a list of some other reasons to stop making New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Too many resolutions at the same time: you will take so many resolutions at the same time, it is going to get overwhelming pretty quickly. Why not focus on only one thing at a time?
  2. Your experience tells you that New Year’s resolutions usually fail: you know the resolutions you take on New Year will fail. You know it. From experience. Just go back in time and recall the last resolutions you had. Did they last more than a month? Were they another iteration of the previous year’s list of new resolutions? If I do myself this little exercise, I perfectly remember that I was supposed to learn how to cook one new recipe a month and I wanted to improve my guitar skills and so on. But the truth is, after one week I had already surrendered. New Year’s Resolutions usually don’t work. Fact.
  3. Abstract objectives are not well handled by the brain: New Year’s Resolutions are nice and shiny … but they are not concrete. Most resolutions are about saving more money, spending more time with the loved ones, losing weight, quit smoking … The brain is not capable of focusing on something if it’s not measurable. You need to get something real, something to grab, and something that the brain can process and help you with. When I mean your brain, I mean your motivation, your willpower and your self-confidence. It’s much easier to start the day saying “Today I’m going to run 5k” than “Today I’m getting fitter”.
  4. They are not YOUR resolutions : very often, people decide to go for a resolution having in mind what others could think. “If I start saving more money, my mother in law will finally think I am a good person for her daughter/son”. That person will not even see the benefit for himself, rather than for other people.

Having said that, does it mean that you should take no resolutions at all?  Have no objectives in mind? No goals?
No, I’m not Leo Babauta. On this, I actually disagree with him (and I plainly agree for the rest). While he thinks having goals could be a disadvantage and lead you on the wrong path (and I respect him for that), I really think that you should take resolutions to put some directions in your life. But let’s stop using the word “resolutions”, because in our modern occidental society it is 99% associated to New Year, and that’s not the point.

Have no resolutions for this year

Have no resolution – Always my unique New Year’s resolution

Set Up Some Goals. Get Real.

Now let’s focus on today. On Now. And together let’s build some goals and resolutions to be applied as of today. I was not lying, I said Today! How to pick up some resolutions?

  1. Find out what really matters most to YOU. Not to other people. If you take the resolutions YOU want, you will be much more likely to keep them and success. I can’t insist enough on this, but I really think it’s important (and too often overlooked at).
  2. Make a plan. You can’t just “lose weight” or “save money”. You need a plan, with dates, objectives and reviews. And you also need some tangible resolutions. Lose weight does not even depend on you, it depends on your body’s reaction to your diet/exercises/ … It’s not something you totally control. So instead of listing “lose weight” as one of your goal/resolutions, you should set “follow during one month the Paleo Diet” or “Eat 5 times a day fruits and vegetables”.
  3. Be accountable. Commit to your plan publicly. Share your plan on Facebook or Twitter. Join a community of motivated people having the same kind of objectives. If you want to leave work behind, follow Tom Ewer’s blog. If you want to live your passion, join Scott’s community. Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income also suggests joining a mastermind group.
  4. Review your progression every day. If you don’t see any result or change, adapt your plan, but don’t stop. Never. If you start seeing results, congratulations! Keep the efforts on and don’t sit back and relax until you reach your main objective.
  5. Never. Ever. Give. Up. I’ve already told you why here, but really. It’s the most important part. As the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You need to be committed and motivated to see the results of your work. Work hard now, and reap the benefits later. Steve Pavlina reminds us that most of the times there are no results the first year.

Need an example? Well, here is my own resolution

Since two weeks, I’m going 3 times a week one hour and a half to the library. I’ll give you more details in the coming days about this new resolution/challenge, but let’s say that I decided to take this resolution based on advice of my girlfriend. And I’m sharing it here on the blog, thus following the advice number 3 on the list above. I’ll also follow up with that Library challenge every now and then.

See how I filled the 4 items of the list above? And my regular follow-ups will prove my 5th point.

  1. Finding out what matters to me: Developing this blog is really important to me.
  2. Having a plan. A concrete one: I have a plan and I have a tangible objective. Rather than “Be more focused when I work on this blog” I decided to go for a concrete way of implementing such an objective : Go 3 times a week, one hour and a half, to the library.
  3. Being accountable and rely on other people: I’m publicly sharing this resolution on this blog. And I’m also accountable to my girlfriend, whom I know will support me on this.
  4. Reviews: I’m going to review my progression via this blog, writing now and then a follow-up article about how the experiment is going.
  5. Never give up: I won’t give up, until my next challenge. My regular follow-ups will be my evidence.

So, what are your goals for today? Tomorrow? What about the goal you will take on the 12th of February? And that goal you should have taken 3 weeks ago already?

No goals in mind?

Well, if really you have no goals in mind, you can still check this impressive resource from Jeff Haden. Based on his own experience, he tells us the 21 things that beat your New Year’s Resolutions. I already started following some of them. These are day-to-day improvements that you can easily make on your own life. It won’t make you a marathon runner or a billionaire out of the box but it will definitely put you on the right track for anything you might want from life. Plus, they are concrete and definitely apply to each of us.

What are your goals?

If you need to be accountable, I’m here to help you and give you advice and support. So, be accountable here on this blog. That’s how Spencer Haws helped me reach my goal of 8 new blog posts for the month of November, and now it’s my turn to return the favor to my fellow readers and help them achieve their goals. Please let me know what your new goal/challenge is!


PS: Photo courtesy of Josh Hopkins and John

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  1. Encouraging Quotes #7 - Believe In Yourself - [...] started, and you probably made a list of resolutions for the New Year (although I told you not to, ...

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